XXOf all the cookie and cake boards shown on this site, most were used to make primarily two different types of cookie. Bakers using the deeper-carved cookie boards would have used a recipe for speculaas, speculoos, or spekulatius, depending which country the baker resided in. The more shallow-carved American cake board was used to make what is most commonly referred to as a New Year's cake. I will start with a recipe given to me by my friend Art Holevoet of Atkinson, Illinois. Art is a third generation Belgian whose family emigrated from Flanders to the United States. The recipe I believe was his mother's recipe which originated in Belgium. This recipe will also serve as a recipe for "speculoos" as it is often called in Belgium

1 C. butter, softened

1 C. Crisco shortening

1 C. sugar

1 C. light molasses

1 tsp. baking soda

1 T. hot water

5 to 6 C. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ginger

3/4 C. finely ground almonds

Art Holevoet with one of his cookie boards

Cream together the butter, Crisco and sugar. Add molasses and the baking soda, which has been dissolved in 1T. hot water, mixing thoroughly. Sift spices with half of flour. Add finely ground almonds(almonds work well if run through a blender). Add to butter-molasses mixture. Add remaining half of flour, mixing completely, to make a stiff dough. Work into 2 rolls for slicing, or a ball of dough(if you will be using a cookie board), wrap in waxed paper, and let stand overnight in the refrigerator. This dough can be frozen if need be. Either slice very thin cookies from rolls, or press dough into a floured wooden cookie board. Place cookies on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake at 350°F for 7 to 10 minutes, until starting to brown. The baking time may be a bit longer for speculaas cookies made from the cookie boards. When cool, store cookies in an air-tight container.

Makes 6 to 8 dozen sliced cookies. If using cookie boards then the number of cookies will depend on the size of the mold which is used.

XXAnother type of Dutch cookie which is shaped in wooden molds is taai taai. My sources tell me that taai taai are usually formed in smaller molds than speculaas and that the taste between the two cookies is quite different. It is no accident that the name of these cookies translates into "Tough Tough", as these can be a hard, sticky cookie, so be careful when eating these cookies or you may lose your teeth. On the first page of "Objects" you will see a mold titled, "Taai Taai", which I bought in Amsterdam. It came from the home of the antiques dealer and she called it a mold for making taai taai "sticks". She added that Dutch farmers would often go off to market to sell their goods and then bring taai taai cookies home for the children. This recipe is straight from the Netherlands and is courtesy of Paul van Voorthuijsen.

1 C. honey

2/3 C. corn syrup

1 Tbsp. aniseed

1 C. water

1 C. patent flour

2 C. plus 3 Tbsp. rye flour

1 1/2 Tbsp. cookie herbs

1/2 to 2/3 C. buttermilk

1 Tbsp. fine cornstarch

1 tsp. baking powder

cooking oil



left: ca. 1990's cookie board carved by Jan Vande Voored of Brussels, Belgium
Put the honey, corn syrup, aniseed and water into a pan and bring to a boil while stirring. In the meantime mix the patent flour, rye flour and the cookie herbs. Remove the pan with the syrup-honey mixture from the heat and let cool. Press the syrup-honey mixture through a sieve and into the bowl holding the flour and herb mixture. Mix together the flour and honey-syrup mixtures. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside in a cool place for at least one week. After one week; mix the cornstarch and baking powder together and then add to week-old mixture in bowl. Add the buttermilk and thoroughly stir the mixture together.

You will now need some kind of mold to pour the mix into to produce the figure-shaped taai taai cookies. In the Netherlands these molds can be bought. They are usually cut into a wooden plank. Each plank containing about 6 figures. Similar molds will do. Oil the molds and fill them with part of the mix. Remove excess dough from the mold with a knife to make a clean, flat surface. Empty contents of the mold onto a flat, buttered, baking tray and brush with some milk. Bake in a pre-heated XXX°F oven for about 30 minutes to a nice dark golden brown. Let them cool off and keep for at least another week before consuming them.

Tip: If you are using small molds, keep about one and half cm distance between each cookie.

As you will have noticed from the recipe, you will have to start making the taai taai two weeks before you plan to eat them.

XXWhat the Dutch call speculaas, the German people call spekulatius. This is a simple recipe which can be either formed from cookie boards or cut into thin slices for baking. The biggest difference between the two types of cookies is that the German spekulatius calls for hazelnuts instead of almonds.

1/2 C. butter

2/3 C. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 1/2 Tbsp. ground hazelnuts

lemon zest (to taste)

1 C. plus 1 scant tsp. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

right: 20th century German cookie board
Beat butter until light and creamy. Blend in sugar, cinnamon, egg, hazelnuts, zest, flour and baking powder. Mix well and roll out (very thin). Cut into shapes with cookie cutters or form cookies in wooden cookie board. Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake at moderate temperature (try 350°F, or a little less) until light brown and crisp.

These cookies should be very thin, crisp and evenly browned.

xxAnother German cookie which is formed with a wooden mold is called springerle. Molds for this type of cookie often feature multiple designs on the same side of the board (see photograph below). Springerle molds, much like cake molds, are usually carved so that just the design is imprinted onto the dough and not any extra area around the design. When making springerle cookies, the dough is rolled out and imprinted with the mold, then the baker would carefully separate the designs with a knife. The most noticable difference between springerle and the spekulatius is the flavor. While spekulatius have a distinct ginger flavor, the springerle have an anise flavor.

The following recipe has been graciously shared by Linda Walker Stevens of Hermann, Missouri. Linda acquired this recipe from a descendant of one of Hermann's German settlers (Hermann was settled by German immigrants in the early 19th cenutry), and also received hands-on training in the art of making springerle from this same descendant. Linda says she has tried other recipes, but as far as she is concerned, this recipe makes the best springerle cookie she has ever had. I will include Linda's notes which include subtle changes she made to the original recipe.


Basic recipe:

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 lb. sifted powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. anise oil (not extract)¹

3 C. cake flour, sifted with 1/2 tsp. hartshorn (baker's ammonia)² or baking powder


Beat eggs for 10 minutes. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar, and continue beating for 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and anise oil. Add flour gradually, beating after each addition. When dough gets too stiff for mixer, add the balance of the flour by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a bowl cover - the dough will form a crust if air gets to it. Chill dough for at least one hour.

Use a pastry cloth well-dusted with cake flour to cover the board. Knead the dough a few times. (Dough will be sticky at first; knead in just enough flour to make it manageable - too much will toughen the dough.) Pat out a small portion of the dough at a time, keeping the rest covered airtight and refrigerated. Use a covered rolling pin to roll the dough about ¼" thick. If dough is still too soft, work in small amounts of cake flour until a good texture is obtained. The dough should be just stiff enough to take a good, crisp imprint.

Dust the molds thoroughly with flour (a pastry brush works well on finely detailed molds), then press firmly on dough. Cut between pictures, using a small knife or a pizza/pastry cutter.

¹I've found that other natural flavoring oils make equally delicious cookies and provide a springerle treat for those who dislike anise flavor. Try natural lemon oil (a great tea cookie!), bitter almond oil (flavor similar to marzipan), or orange oil (with a little finely grated orange peel added). ²Hartshorn, the traditional European leavening agent, is available from baker's supply houses or specialty stores. Store it in a zip-lock bag inside an airtight jar in the refrigerator and it will last for years.

Do the imprinting in daylight - the design detail will be easier to see. Repeat until all dough is used. Carefully transfer cookies onto cookie sheets lined with baker's parchment, or onto non-stick sheets well-greased with shortening. Avoid insulated cookie sheets, which will cause the springerle to brown during baking.

Allow springerle to dry on the sheets for 12 hours, uncovered. Drying protects the design during baking.

Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes, checking to prevent any browning. Springerle should be golden on the bottom and white on top.

Yield depends on the size of mold used - about 3 dozen 2"x 3" cookies. Stored airtight, the springerle will keep for months. If they become hard, add a slice of apple to the storage container for a day before serving.

Springerle designs may be painted to wonderful effect, using a fine watercolor brush dipped in diluted food color. Keep the colors soft. Remember to reserve your springerle paint brush strictly for food use.

Strehly House springerle
Springerle Mold

20th century